Luzita Trujillo stands comfortably in the yard of her cozy adobe home, and runs her hand along the fine exterior wall surface flecked with straw.
“This was my grandmother’s home,” she said, “and my father grew up here. I actually stuccoed this myself. I did it by hand to make it look like mud,” a practice she said she perfected from the two weeks she once spent volunteering at the annual enjarré (mudding) of San Francisco de Asís Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos.
It’s just one of the many skills and talents that define Trujillo, whose diminutive presence belies her giant heart. Teacher, fabric artist, community activist, dancer, volunteer, tutor – the list goes on, as noted by Ernestina Córdova, who nominated Trujillo to be one of the 2020 Unsung Heroes project of the Taos News.
“I’ve known Luzita for years and every time I’ve seen her she’s doing something else – always working and giving of herself,” Córdova said. “I admire all of Luzita’s volunteer work, especially with the children. And she’s just such a nice person,” all of which contributed to Córdova’s nomination of Trujillo.
Córdova and her husband, Francis, are themselves active in the community, including decades of service to Taos Feeds Taos. “It’s very meaningful when you’re recognized by your community for the contributions you make,” Córdova continued, noting that she received the same honor in 2004 and that her husband, Francis Córdova, was named Taos’ Citizen of the Year in 2018.
If you’ve stopped in to the Talpa Community Center, located on State Road 518, then you probably know Trujillo as a part time librarian. Then again, maybe you know her as the volunteer art and ceramics teacher, or the summer reading program coordinator. If you hear traditional Spanish music emanating from the center, then it’s a sure bet she is inside coaching her dance students who perform as Los Niños Bailadores.
“I teach the group the dances that early settlers to the region brought with them,” she said. “I want our children to know and remember our Spanish culture and traditions,” she explained, a heritage they then share with the community during Fiestas or at events hosted by such venues as the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Martínez Hacienda, the Taos County Fair and the Taos Community Auditorium.
She never charges families for the training and when costumes are required for her dancers Trujillo makes them herself, pro bono. “I have so much fabric that I’ve collected over the years that I could open a store,” and with one peek into her sewing room – where her finely crafted magic takes place – you realize that is not an exaggeration.
Trujillo has served as secretary to the Talpa Center’s board of directors for years and is actively involved with its Taos Community Artists Co-op, located in the Old Taos County Courthouse at 121 North Plaza. Her intricate pillows and wallhangings usually feature Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her jackets, quilts, aprons, place mats and fiesta skirts are among the co-op’s most favored offerings.
“Of course much of my schedule has changed because of COVID-19,” she noted sadly. “We have decided to close the co-op for the near future and we can’t have the kinds of classes at the center that we had been having.”
Now, her fabric art mainly includes making cloth masks along with fellow members of the Talpa Quilters Guild. “We’ve been donating them to Picuris Pueblo and to El Pueblito Church’s Shared Table.”
Fun fact: Trujillo’s affiliation with the Talpa Community Center long transcends the time she has recently devoted to it.
“Well, my roots go back to when I was a little girl,” Trujillo said. Growing up the oldest of seven siblings, she noted, “It used to be our school, one little room with students from a Head Start program to eighth grade. My father was the principal of the school and an eighth grade teacher. He insisted during school hours that we call him ‘Mr. Trujillo,’ ” she laughed. “At home after school we went back to normal.”
After her divorce, Trujillo began attending New Mexico Highlands University, from which she received both a bachelor’s and a master’s in elementary education with minors in Spanish. She taught for 29 years in the Taos Municipal Schools system in Kindergarten through third grades, and taught Spanish at the high school level. She was also designated as a resource teacher, administering a program for which she had written a successful grant designed to make bilingual education consistent across the classrooms.
There’s no surprise that for this dynamo a single decades-long career wasn’t enough. Trujillo spent time at the University of New Mexico-Taos teaching bilingual classes, and for nine years was also a fixture at the Taos Day School at Taos Pueblo, where she tutored in the afterschool program covering mathematics and gifted math, a gifted arts program and sewing classes.
She even found the time to be a contributor to the Taos News, featuring upbeat stories for the Spanish section of the paper. “Only fun stuff,” she said. “Feast days, marriages – any positive events. No politics!”
The role most precious to her, however, is being a mother to Val Girón and Luís Girón, the latter who “lives with God now,” the victim of a tragic motorcycle accident. Trujillo is also a devoted grandmother to grandson, Santiago Girón, and granddaughters Naomi and Natasha Snake.
Right now the only thing slowing her down is the coronavirus. After attending summer language programs in Spain years ago, she is looking forward to dusting off her suitcase and heading back there once more. “I hope this is over sooner rather than later, and I can travel again.”
In the meantime, there’s no doubt that Luzita Trujillo will find plenty with which to keep herself busy.